Private Incident Reporting System

Private Incident Reporting System - An Easier and Safer Reporting System for All


The Wikimedia Foundation wants to improve how people who experience harassment and other forms of abuse report such harmful incidents to provide safer and healthier environments for communities.

The newly formed Trust and Safety Tools team has been tasked with building the Private Incident Reporting System (PIRS). We aim to make it easy for users to report harmful incidents safely and privately.

Background of the projectEdit

Reporting and processing of harmful incidents has been a topic of interest for Wikimedia communities for many years. With the new Universal Code of Conduct being set up, it is crucial to also have a discussion about user reporting systems.

The way incidents, misconduct and policy violations are dealt with across Wikimedia spaces and projects has developed organically and varies across different communities.

Each Wikimedia project or community has their way of managing things. Reporting and processing of incidents happen in a variety of ways:

  • via wiki talk pages
  • via noticeboards
  • via email
  • via private discussions on off-wiki communication channels (Discord, IRC)

For many users, it is unclear what to do if an incident happens: where to go, who to talk to, how to report, what information to include in the report, how the report is processed, what happens afterwards etc.

Users must know how to report an issue and where to do so. There is also very little information on what will happen once a report is made and what expectations the user should have.

Some users do not feel safe reporting incidents when they occur because of the complexity of the reporting process and because of privacy concerns.

There is currently no standardised way for users to file reports privately.

Focus of the projectEdit

The high-level goal of this project therefore is to make it easier to address harassment and harmful incidents.

We want to ensure the privacy and safety of those reporting. We also want to ensure that reports have the right information and reach the appropriate entity that needs to process it, while not putting extra pressure on the ones who do the processing.

The Trust and Safety Tools Team is also looking at this incident reporting system as part of a larger incident management ecosystem for, e.g. preventive work such as managing disagreements before they escalate, incident processing, connecting and tracking cases etc.

We are not building this entire ecosystem at once. However, we will study how a whole ecosystem would work and how the individual systems within it will connect before we start building.

Product and Technical UpdatesEdit

See also: Private Incident Reporting System/Updates

Our goal right now is to discuss an overall direction for moving forward and determine some specific pain points we can address that we can also learn from. We would like to refine these ideas with your help.

November 8, 2022 – Project Scope & MVPEdit

Our main goal for the past couple of months was to understand the problem space and user expectations around this project. The way we would like to approach this is to build something small, a minimum viable product (MVP), that will help us figure out whether the basic experience we are looking at actually works. Read more.


Figuring out how to manage incident reporting in the Wikimedia space is not an easy task. There are a lot of risks and a lot of unknowns.

As this is a complex project it needs to be split into multiple iterations and project phases. For each of these phases we will hold one or several cycles of discussions in order to ensure that we are on the right track and that we incorporate community feedback early, before jumping into large chunks of work.

Phase 1Edit

Preliminary research: collect feedback, reading through existing documentation.

Conduct interviews in order to better understand the problem space and identify critical questions we need to answer.

Define and discuss possible product direction and scope of project. Identify possible pilot wikis.

At the end of this phase we should have a solid understanding of what we are trying to do.

Phase 2Edit

Create prototypes to illustrate the ideas that came up in Phase 1.

Create a list of possible options for more in-depth consultation and review.

Phase 3Edit

Identify and prioritize the best possible ideas.

Transition to software development and break down work in Phabricator tickets.

Continue cycle for next iterations


The following document is a completed review of research from 2015–2022 the Wikimedia Foundation has done on online harassment on Wikimedia projects. In this review we’ve identified major themes, insights, and areas of concern and provided direct links to the literature.

Previous workEdit

The Trust and Safety Tools team has been studying previous research and community consultations to inform our work. We revisited the Community health initiative User reporting system proposal and the User reporting system consultation of 2019. We have also been trying to map out some of the conflict resolution flows across wikis to understand how communities are currently managing conflicts. Below is a map of the Italian Wiki conflict resolution flow. It has notes on opportunities for automation.

On Italian Wikipedia, there's a 3-step policy in place for conflict resolution. This map visualizes this process and tries to identify opportunities for automation for both editors and admins.

Frequently Asked QuestionsEdit

Q: Is there data available about how many incidents are reported per year?

A: Right now there is not a lot of clear data we can use. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, issues are reported in various ways and those differ from community to community. Capturing that data completely and cleanly is highly complicated and would be very time consuming. Second, the interpretation of issues also differs. Some things that are interpreted as harassment are just wiki business (e.g. deleting a promotional article). Review of harassment may also need cultural or community context. We cannot automate and visualize data or count it objectively. The incident reporting system is an opportunity to solve some of these data needs.

Q: How is harassment being defined?

A: Please see the definitions in the Universal Code of Conduct.

Q: How many staff and volunteers will be needed to support the PIRS?

A: Currently the magnitude of the problem is not known. So the amount of people needed to support this is not known. Experimenting with the minimum viable product will provide some insight into the number of people needed to support the PIRS.

Q: What is the purpose of the MVP (minimal viable product)?

A: The MVP is an experiment and opportunity to learn. This first experimental work will answer the questions that we have right now. Then results will guide the future plans.

Q: What questions are you trying to answer with the minimum viable product?

A: Here are the questions we need to answer:

  • What kind of reports will people file?
  • How many people will file reports?
  • How many people would we need in order to process them?
  • How big is this problem?
  • Can we get a clearer picture of the magnitude of harassment issues? Can we get some data around the number of reports? Is harassment underreported or overreported?
  • Are people currently not reporting harassment because it doesn’t happen or because they don’t know how?
  • Will this be a lot to handle with our current setup, or not?
  • How many are valid complaints compared to people who don't understand the wiki process? Can we distinguish/filter valid complaints, and filter invalid reports to save volunteer or staff time?
  • Will we receive lots of reports filed by people who are upset that their edits were reverted or their page was deleted? What will we do with them?

Q: How does the Wikimedia movement compare to how other big platforms like Facebook/Reddit handle harassment?

A: While we do not have any identical online affinity groups, the Wikimedia movement is most often connected with Facebook and Reddit in regard to how we handle harassment. What is important to consider is nobody has resolved harassment. Other platforms struggle with content moderation, and often they have paid staff who try to deal with it. Two huge differences between us and Reddit and Facebook are the globally collaborative nature of our projects and how communities work to resolve harassment at the community-level.

Q: Is WMF trying to change existing community processes?

A: Our plan for the PIRS is not to change any community process. The goal is to connect to existing processes. The ultimate goals are to:

  • Make it easier for people who experience harassment to get help.
  • Eliminate situations in which people do not report because they don’t know how to report harassment.
  • Ensure harassment reports reach the right entities that handle them per local community processes.
  • Ensure responders receive good reports and redirect unfounded complaints and issues to be handled elsewhere.